Going to and from school safely should be least of students’ worries

Johnson City Press • Aug 25, 2018 at 8:15 AM

We’re just a few weeks into the new school year, and we’ve already noticed disturbing trends in school road safety.

As we drop our own children off at schools, we see drivers going through school zones giving zero attention to the change in speed limits. They’re so engrossed in their own worlds that they zone right out, focusing on anything other than the flashing signs. Even some parents delivering their own kids are not slowing down.

The prospects of injuring or even killing a child in school zone just are not enough to slow people down. This is nothing new, but this year’s bad school zone behavior appears worse than ever.

The problem is so prevalent along King Springs Road in the Mountain View Elementary School zone that Johnson City police have taken to running radar on foot with no squad car in sight. Police regularly have conducted spot radar checks in heavily trafficked zones for years, but there seems to be more of a need in these first few weeks.

We’ve also spotted drivers giving school buses no room to breathe on busy roads. On West Market Street in particular, hurried and distracted drivers seem to pay little mind to buses in the adjacent lane, allowing scant time to apply the brakes if that red stop sign pops out. Some even accelerate past the bus when the warning lights start blinking.

Bus drivers have a hard enough job in managing a vehicle full of children without having to worry about bone-headed motorists.

That’s one reason school districts have such a hard time keeping drivers and finding quality applicants to fill the ranks. Coupled with undesirable hours and pay, the stresses make the job unappealing.

We had hoped having a new administration would help the Washington County Schools district settle some of its bus driver woes, but alas, the situation remains unsettled.

Two back-to-back incidents — a driver who crashed after falling asleep at the wheel and a driver charged with DUI while operating a bus full of students — last spring resulted in a much-needed investigation into Washington County’s busing procedures. The inquiry revealed the district had failed to test its drivers for drugs or alcohol in four years and resulted in the bus supervisor’s resignation.

As we reported earlier this month, the state issued a damning report on the district’s bus oversight, including the lack of a formal training program for drivers.

And on Friday, Interim Director of Schools Bill Flanary confirmed that the new transportation supervisor, Tim Post, had resigned just four months into his role. Flanary declined to elaborate on why.

Regardless of the reason, Washington County needs to resolve the transportation circus so that parents can have confidence in allowing their students to ride buses. As we stated on this page Aug. 8, parents must hold the school board and the administration accountable toward consistent policy and practices.

Meanwhile, you can do your part by paying more attention to school zones and buses on the road. Believe us when we say the prospects of a ticket should be the least of your concerns.

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